Mill’s Inconsistent Distinctions: An Analysis of the Consistency of J‌. S‌. Mill’s Utilitarianism and Liberalism

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Imam Khomeini International University (IKIU), Iran


This paper analyzes the inconsistency of Mill’s utilitarianism in moral philosophy and his liberalism in political philosophy, the efforts of Ten and Dworkin for their consistency and the distinction that Leob and Driver use for reconciling them‌. The distinction is between decision-procedure and criterion of evaluation or the metaphysics and epistemology of right‌. In the next step, it shows a new inconsistency between Mill’s moral and political philosophy‌. It seems that Mill cannot accept the non-consequentialist ‘doing/allowing harm’ distinction in moral philosophy because he himself is a consequentialist‌. The rejection of this distinction makes it inconsistent with his harm principle and his main distinction in political philosophy: the distinction between ‘self-regarding’ and ‘other-regarding’ actions‌. These criticisms show the difficulty of reconciling Mill’s utilitarianism with his liberalism and his moral philosophy with his political philosophy in the framework of the classic triple (virtue, deontological and consequentialist ethics) in normative ethics‌. Therefore, in order to solve this problem, I combined the classic triple with the modern triple (minimalist, moderate, and extremist morality) in normative ethics. In this way, we can regard Mill as a consistent utilitarian who regards liberty as the essential condition for personal development and maximization of the good, and tries to raise a moderate and sophisticated version of utilitarianism by decreasing its pervasiveness‌‌.


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